When I was in my all girls high school and boyfriend and boy friend-less, I wasn’t so worried. Worst case scenario, I could invite one of my well-mannered Afrikaans tennis pals to the school dance with me. All the normal people end up with another normal person eventually, I thought. And I am definitely normal compared to some of the freaks out there who have had relationships and even babies. School is now a distant memory (thank goodness) but outside of a few panicked pre-30 moments, I’ve continued to cling to my belief that normal people find other normal people, even if it hasn’t always worked for me.
The first time I fell in love, I think I got swept away by charm. Wait, it was 8 years ago, so I actually can’t remember why I fell in love. That’s why we keep diaries. I recorded the following: ‘It was just so comfortable being around him and fun…I was so excited, like on a breezy cloud.’ Followed by this DH Lawrence quote: “Love is the flower of life, and blossoms unexpectedly and without law, and must be plucked where it is found, and enjoyed for the brief hour of its duration.”
YUCK, that’s also why I no longer write a diary.
So for round 2 I was prepared, there would be no declarations of love in week 3, no premature wading into that murky pool of infatuation. And just as well, because it took the American I now love almost a year to ask me to be his date. And by that I mean accompany him as his date somewhere, not actually go on a date. We’d been cycling friends in the run up to this (Nov 2012-Aug 2013) and spent w ends with friends at the beach over the Summer but he’d never thrown so much as a special glance my way up until this point. Before the ‘date’, there had been some mini signals of interest, like an awkwardly long hand linger when passing me his cell phone in a car and an equally awkward bum tap in a kitchen, but otherwise zero. To this day, I have no idea if he was slowly psyching himself up to make a non-move by inviting me as his date to this event or if we could just as easily still not be together if we hadn’t been forced to squish up very tight in the car on the ride home. Anyway, in his case slow and steady wins the race. It’s also the air of certainty he has about him (like, no rush, I got this) that makes him especially attractive. Once we’d navigated the first kiss, the calm approach also translated into regular, stable dating patterns that I welcomed compared to prior New Yorker experiences. Being friends, we already had a foundation of trust and respect but it took some time to figure out how not to just be friends. Luckily, his angst free spirit rubbed off on me and I managed to silence all the ‘what ifs’ and ‘buts’ swimming around in my head and follow his carefree lead.
After about 3 months of mutual appreciation, I recall my sister asking me if I was in love and I was like ‘whooaaa, no way’ but I think she planted the seed. Shortly after that, I had friends staying with me and being Franco-German, they wanted to make us a quick Quiche before going out. I clearly don’t use the oven much and had left a plastic utensil in there that proceeded to start a real fire in my kitchen. The German, being a responsible surgeon, screamed for us gentile ladies to evacuate but a minute later as I was sneaking back in to rescue my passport, I saw that the American had calmly put out the fire and saved all my worldly possessions. That was the moment I started to fall in love.
It took another 3 months for the falling, falling, fallen process to complete. By then I was so starry-eyed it was burdensome to hold it in. I could feel the love coming from him too so I thought that in the same way he opens doors and carries bags for me, he would just be the man and say it first. He was definitely moving steadily in that direction when he came out with ‘I really like you’ as part of a bigger appreciation speech one lazy afternoon in February. Whilst I was drinking in every word about how he’s so happy with me and has always wanted a relationship like this, blah blah, blah, I was mainly thinking that if it’s taken him 6 months to conclude he really likes me then he’s probably at least another 3 off from the big L. There was no way I could match such stoicism so I decided I’d have to get it off my chest that day. After multiple attempts at finding the right moment and stilling the queasy feeling in my tummy, I finally confessed. His face lit up in a way that placated my nausea. Apparently he loved me too but had been looking for the right words (for male readers, the right words are I love you). We both breathed a sigh of relief.
Now that the words are out there we say them when we really mean them, a special treat and a reminder not to take them for granted. Sometimes when I hear the words unexpectedly my heart is still momentarily arrested. Because, as DH pointed out, love is that rare flower that must be treasured for the potentially brief hour of its duration.